Wait, listen and learn

Staff_team_2015 Posted by Roger Cooke on Tue, 15 Dec 2015 | 1 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

As someone with both an overactive mind and an overactive mouth, I can be a lot quicker to speak than to listen: I’m often much keener to voice than reflect. While this is occasionally a helpful trait, it can be problematic for me and for others.

Throughout my nine years on the CMSI staff team, there’s always been a culture of open discussion and lively debate around the table. This is something that I cherish. It has led to uproarious laughter, to instances of genuine challenge and inspiration, and to moments of deep, profound sharing together. But there have also been times when things have ‘overheated’ – voices and temperatures have been raised, there’s been misunderstanding and dispute and people have come away confused or hurt. It’s easy to see why James identified the tongue as ‘a fire’.

When it comes to both informal chat and formal group discussion, there is a tendency in our Irish, ‘western’ culture to interrupt and speak over one another. We’re so enthusiastic about our own contribution that we pay little attention to what’s already being said and we jump in at the slightest hint of a pause. I’m guilty as charged, but I’ve certainly encountered many other offenders (who may not even know of their crime).

Occasionally, at family gatherings, we’ve had to resort to ‘the oversized pepper mill of power’ – passing round the chosen object to ensure that one person (and only one person) has ‘the floor’ at any one time. You might want to try something similar over the Christmas season!

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

When we read these familiar words from Luke 6, we generally think in terms of the actual words we share: the condition of our hearts gives rise to healthy utterances or unhelpful speech. But I wonder whether we might also consider how a healthy heart can influence the speed of our verbal responses and the quantity of our spoken words.

I’m convinced that I’m more willing to pause, to listen and to reflect when I am at peace within. When I’m in healthy communion with God, when I’m more keenly aware of just how much I’m loved and valued by Him, I’m less inclined to need affirmation or attention from those around me, I’m less driven by the desire to be noticed and ‘heard’.

But I also think that, to some extent, it can work in the other direction: the external actions can influence the internal experience. Making a conscious effort to speak less and to wait for others to have their say can help us to be more in tune with what God and others are really saying.

Of course, all of this is easier said than thought… I still speak too much. I still speak too soon. But I hope and pray that I’m beginning to slow down, to wait and to listen, to allow sense and sensitivity to triumph over speed of thought and word.

If you share my proclivity for overeager speech, I’d encourage you to slow down over Christmas and to let someone else have the pepper mill! I’d also suggest you read the next blog, in which I hope to share some global perspectives on this art of conversational waiting.

Enough said!



Anne said Fri, 18 Dec 2015 10:30AM
It is indeed, the extent to which we feel loved and valued by Him, that is reflected in how we speak as much as what we say or do not say. Definitely something I can work on!

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